tv Senator Grassley on Congressional Oversight CSPAN June 27, 2018 9:14am-10:00am EDT
alaska to her next stop in fairbanks. >> for most of us coming the only way to get to see her delegations harder work in washington. gci is a proud to carry c-span for a number of reasons, especially for their education. buses plans and handouts, teaching videos and conferences, the c-span program offers so many resources to teaers and has a great deal of value to today's classrooms. >> thank you for being part of it, bringing your awesome bus to fairbanks. the two were about was just incredible. i heard stories driving to camp from the folks who brought the bus to appear. the things they saw on the way coming to alaska and i understand i've driven it a few times myself and it is an awesome trip and we are so glad you're bus came here and using it as a tool to bring sheer banks nationwide.
>> would appreciate on c-span, that's a joke by the way, you can laugh. what a i appreciate about c-span is it's not partisan. you watch the sparring that takes place. you watch the delegations talked back and forth. it's extremely informative and very educational. one of the best things on the bus and i am a type geek, so i hope they take me with them on their two were. but if you go and look at the video, government doesn't have to be a bad word.
>> on monday, senate judiciary chair chuck grassley spoke about oversight of the executive branch and the role of whistleblowers. the heritage foundation and is 45 minutes. >> good afternoon. welcome to the heritage foundation in our lewis lehrman non-italian. we of course will come those ininus on our heritage.org website on all of these occasions for in-house guests we ask that our mobile devices have been silenced or turned off and for those watching online coming are welcome to send questions now or anytime in the fut e-mailing speaker at psion heritage.org. welcoming our guests and beginner programming this afternoon is john malcolm. malcolm serves as vice president for institute for constitutional government. he's director for legal studies and also the added gilbert chery
limburg gilbertson senior legal fellow. join me in welcoming john malcolm. john. [applause] >> welcome everybody to heritage. we are here to discuss an important topic, which is the role of the congressional oversight place in our system of checks and balances and separation of powers. our founding fathers certainly understood the need for each branch of government to be on their guard against the power by the other two branches of government. federalist number 51, no government would be necessary. madison loan is that men would be, he added ambition must be made to counteract the ambition and vigorous congressional oversight is one of the key is making sure that happens. the congress is going to pass a law to appropriate funds and the
people whom they represent have a right to know how those funds are being implemented and whether those funds are being well spent. they do focus on a number of sensitive issues including national security investigat that out to remain free. it's also important executive branch officials are completely open and candid in their views, even when they may be politically unpopular without the undue fear they might be personally embarrassing. the privilege is fundamental, the operation of government rooted in the separation of power from the constitution. there's always been considerable tension between the legislative and executive branches when determining how far congress should be allowed to go in exploring the inner workings of the tech bnch and perhaps the
judicial branch. offering his divine the issue is one of the champions of robust ersight, senator chuck grassley from iowa. senator grassley has a long and distinguished career and received his bachelor's degree from the university of northern iowa. he's been the university of iowa and he was first elected the legislature in 1958 into the house of representatives in the team -- 1980 when he observed the senate in iowa and indeed the rest of the nation as a united states senator. senator grassley has long been considered a champion of government oversight and transparency and is often referred to as the patron saint of whistleblowers. he is currently the chairman of the senate judiciary and believes the need for robust oversight has been on full display. please join me in welcoming senator grassley.
[applause] >> thank you for a kind introduction. if i make one little correction because i don't want to be misleading here. i was elected to the legislature in the middle of the crusade i was on and so i one of those people who almost. it's a privilege to be here with you. in 1980, before most of you were born, i was elected to the united states senate and during my early years in the united states senate, i met a man who had a significant impact on my career. his name was arthur earns ernest fitzgerald, but everyone called him ernie. i call him the father of whistleblowers to this is an original we got from the library of congress.
this is the famous $700 toilet seat representative when i got involved in oversight and whistleblowing. he was called ernie. you probably never heard of him. a few did, earned his reputation preceded him even way back before i knew him. in 1968, ernie testified before the joint economic committee about the air force c-5 =tranfou aircraft program. that testimony changed ernie's brought a lot of attention to whistleblowers. the c-5 aircraft is an important military priority, but it took longer and cost more.
the government did not want anybody to know that. although he knew it might damage his career, ernie testified before congress that this prize program cost the taxpayers $2 billion more than the pentagon would admit. that was 1968 in today's dollars that would be more than $14.5 billion. earnings of audacity to commit truth earned him the absolute fury of the president of the united states. the famous nixon tapes revealed that the president himself ordered his subordinates in the white house to get rid of that sop. that is a direct quote. they did. ernie spent the next 14 years fighting for his professional
life. in fact, he only had his job at the pentagon until he retired because of a court order. time and again mr. fitzgerald resisted the pentagon's never-ending effort to end his career. from the fight they put out, you would've thought defense department was facing down mortal enemy, whatever we asked to come to capitol hill. i had to go to the pentagon wants myself in 1985 to serve him a subpoena just so he cou testy before my subcommittee. ernie's work and life have greatly inspired the senator. his entire time in government, ernie rilla a sleeper through the fax and courageously told the truth. when he retired, and i said that of him.
ernie's work was about keeping faith of the taxpayers. that is what oversight is all about. keeping faith. keeping faith with the taxpayers, keeping faith with we the peoe. it means working as hard as you can to give people confidence that their government either plays by the rules or is held accountable. just in the last two weeks my committee has pulled out all of the stops to shine a light on waste and misconduct in the other branches. last wee we looked at the department of justice inspector general's findings, a political bias and misconduct in law enforcement. this week before we looked -- weethebefore that, we took
testimony from witnesses who described a judicial branch to address sexual harassment claims. we can learn a lot about what oversight is and what it means from these efforts and there will be a lot more to study before the summer is out. but for now, i would like to start with the basics. when we enter elective office, we take an oath. the oath that we take as a solemn promise to defend the constitution of the united states. that document is a source of our rule of law and the guarantee of our liberties. theonstitution establishes separaf poti or in three branches over which the people of course are sovereign. to ensure that authority remains with the people, the constitution also defuses power between and among the branches. recall that checks and balances.
another word as far as i'm learn this structure was sent by mistake. i will quote a little bit differently and other framers had a long history with unchecked ambition and undivided authy. they called it the third. they knew those who had power to seek more often not the expense of principle and the general welfare. so they designed a system for the same institution to write the law, interpret and enforce the consequences. each institution has tools to check the other. by design, and the system invites conflict as each branch in choirs, negotiate with
ingrates against the others. in the words of james madison, ambition works to counteract ambition. it is the system that sustains the delicate balance between and among each branch of government. and it is that branch that the framers believed would be best secured, respect for the re of law and ensure accountability to the people. regretfully today this balance has shifted. today we live under a government that the framers would not recognize. we have become a nation that is no longer governed by congressional action and endorsed by the president and interpreted by the courts. today we are ruled more and more by accessing regulation and executives fear. we've done little to prevent our
system of separated powers from yielding to solve to the sweeping authority of federal agencies and wha many call rightfully so the administrative state. we cannot land political ideology. democrats and republicans, the nded and has gone at the onlyex expense of congressional authority and prestige. we have sacrificed our constitutional mandate on the altars of efficiency and expertise. we have moved from a government by and for the people, the government by the bureaucrat in the connected insiders. i'm afraid that we are experiencing what james madison warned about in 62 when he wrote about the dangers of turning out so many murky burdens some
roles. he warned about, quote, the unreasonable advantage of his to the enterprising and the industrious and uniform mass of the people. the modern administrative state is a good deal for congress, which can pass bills with lofty goals and take credible agencies sort out the details that congress doesn't want to deal with or doesn't know how to deal with. it also is a good deal for special interest and well-connected corporations who can afford to sort through scores of regulations published each year in the advantage small business doesn't have. but it's a rotten deal for the american people. it's a rotten deal for the farmers, small-business owners and job creators across the
country were a burden by piles of regulation left wondering where to turn to for relief. consider these statistics. the 114 congress, 329 bills became law. during the same period, the obama administration finalized more than twice as many rules and regulations and that doesn't count guidance documents or other forms of agency action, some of which have the same impact as regulation. not intended to, that seemed too. or some estimates, regulation plays a great weight on the economy is nearly $2 trillion in compliance costs. unfortunately, we in the congress enabled this. we authorized the government programs and get agencies to money and the staff to run it.
it's no wonder there are more than 180,000 pages of administrative regulations. i'm glad that president trump has made cutting the regulatory burden one of his top priorities , but lasting reform is going to require some significant structural changes. think about this. more than 2 million people work for the federal government. that does not even include contractors and active-duty military personnel. according to a 2015 study, the actual size of the goverent workforce is estimated at more than 9 million. and remember what i said about the tendency of those who have the power to seek more. that seems to be the primary purpose of nonelected bureaucrat. these folks fight tooth and nail to safeguard their programs even
when the programs don't work. i have seen evidence of agency leaders ordering subordinates to spend money that they don't need it just so they can justify having it in the first place. clearly, congres needs to exercise more scrutiny over taxpayers money, not less. part of the problem is that we are not passing individual appropriation bills on schedule like congress used to. in fact, we've only met the deadline that in the congressional budget office four times since the law was passed 1974. instead, we passed on the base bills that its cure critical issues and make it difficult to cut the. wasteful programs and projects home right along, up valuable taxpayer dollars in providing little value for returns.
despite all of this, you may still wonder giving the agencies more leeway such a bad thing. what's the real harm in a few programs? government does not evict them less crime. the more we kept the constitutional scale, the less accountable government will be to the people who are sovereign. this gradual surrender of authority piles on to the logistical challenges that congress always faces. as i noted earlier, millions of people work in the executive branch. two of them are elected by the people and there are often many layers of folks between the elected executive and the unelected bureaucrats make in the critical decisions. this means that there's a lot of distance between the everyday decision-makers and the ultimate source of authority.
again, the american people. by contrast, legislators in congress are directly accountable. we received their feedback during the elections in every day by e-mail, by phone and in person. but for 535 elected members of congress, there are only about 16,000 supporting staff. that means we have less than 17,000 people that counteract the ambitions of more than 2 million in the executive branch. this is an argument for hiring more congressional employees. we have to work very hard to drop smart legislation and even harder to read for senate consensus. meanwhile, unelected bureaucrats can make decisions that contradict and ignored the clear and hard-won intent of the congress. that can happen through the regulatory process or just
because some agency lawyer said so. for example, the government accountability office found president obama's epa engaged in unlawful covert propaganda and those words come from the report to its aggressive use of social media to drum up support in the waters of the u.s. rule. in fact, epa actions violated clear prohibitions that congress had put in place and in 2015 the office of legal counsel single-handedly overturned a critical provision in the inspector general's. it said that congress did not mean what it said is not act, that inspect or his general should have access to all the records they need to do their job. so congress had to pass another law to say what we meant when we passed that law in the first place.
the law i'm referring to last congress inspector general empowerment act clarified that the inspect or his general should have access to all notwithstanding any other law. so howo hold these bureaucrats accountable to the rule of law and then to the sovereignty of the american people? how do we keep the constitutional scale from tipping too far? the answer is quite obvious. oversight. congress doing his constitutional job to see that the executive ranch faithfully execute the laws. article i of the constitution with all legislative power in the united states come in t congress' powers to conduct investigations inherent with this grant of legislative power. the supreme court has long recognized. it broke a quote, a legislative
body cannot legislate wisely or affect to wait in the absence of information respect to conditions which the legislation is intended to affect or change, end quote. for these reasons, the supreme court is also recognized that congress' power of inquiry is very broad and fully enforceable. the green also noted that, quote, request for information oftener unavailing so some means of compulsion are essential to obtain what is needed. the court has even ruled that congress can require testimony even when it may be relevant to another proceeding. like even a court case. oversight isn't just the responsibility of committees or their chairman, although their leadership and expertise is very
important. oversight is the responsibility of each and every member of congress. whether it's majority or minority, each member is a constitutional officer. he or she was elected to represent and cast votes in the interest of their constituents. each member needs accurate information from the executive branch in order to make informed decisions. i tell every new member of the senate that i talk to. i said remember it takes 51 votes, sometimes 60 votes around here to pass a bill. it only takes one vote to do oversight. so you don't have it ask anybody else's permission to do it. oversight takes many forms. individual members can send letters of a request hearings and hold request briefings and hold hearings. they might request documents are interviews that most of the time recipients comply with the
congressional oversight request voluntarily. usually a member of our committee is willing to discuss or negotiate the scopes of a request and reach an accommodation with the agency. in fact, that is the way that members and committees reverse order. no matter what the media says, the goal is to get the information not put on a she of course, every nominee who comes into my office says they will answer my oversight request in a timely fashion. but then they get confirmed and they must get amnesia because all too often i don't hear back from them as quickly as they should get sometimes i don't hear back at all. sometimes i advised them when they come before the committee to maybe just be more honest instead of cvs, say maybe. when a witness does not comply, we have subpoenas of coors.
and of course, in it is easier if the democrats recognize if those were necessary, at least that's my experience in the recent days. in any case, the committee often issues a subpoena only after it has mpted to get the fo voluntarily and those efforts have failed. i think this is what the justice department right now. i think we are seeing now play out as that example i just gave you. i've seen it before, too during the fast and furious investigation. the executive ranch stalled and hid behind vague privilege claims that had nothing to do with the presidential communication. they declared presidential privilege. eventually, a court order to turn over documents of the house committee. they admitted that thousands of pages of withheld documents were
never privilege that all. in our investigation of political interference in the 2016 election, the agency has resisted providing some information because they claim to threaten national security. much of that information is now declassified and it demonstrates those concerns were merely hot air. unfortunately, the executive branch does not always r even our congressional subpoenas. you hear that again in the house of representatives. the documents withheld from congress during the fast and furious were subject to a subpoena. the efforts to enforce it took seven years. failure to provide the documents but the house of all the former attorney exempting taken to court. but it wasn't until this year when president obama and his team had left office that additional documents were finally provided.
it is clear that congress cannot trust the executive branch to make and enforce rules or to comply with this request for infoion. it also cannot depend on the judicial branch with full effect to its oversight authority. it takes too long in the courts don't always get it right. the legislative ranch then must step up to the plate and reassert its constitutional authority. we need a package of rules and legislative changes that drawing congress' own strength. we need to change the default for one of dodger delay to democratic accountability. i've been working with my colleagues on proposals to carry out some of these ideas. meanwhile, as congress seeks help from the other branches to do its job, whistleblowers are working hard to hold the government accountable.
it is our job to protect and empower whistleblowers. once again referring to ernie fitzgerald was not the first whistleblower. blowing the whistle on misconduct and working to protect those who do it is older than our republic. in 1777, aboard the warship were in common purported wrongdoing by their commanding officer. they were slapped with a criminal suit it on july 30th, 1778, the continental congress should down those shenanigans, the lawsuit against it. it made clear that he was the duty of citizens, quote, in service to the united states to give the earliest information to congress of any misconduct, fraud or misdemeanors, end
quote. so whistleblowing is a time-honored tradition in this country. it is deeply patriotic and thoroughly american. the framers knew that to hold onto their democracy they would need not just a well-informed structure, but also a virtual citizenry. that is where the whistleblowers comi in. they keep the government honest. we want to have the kind of government the framers embedded, they must be good. whistleblowers have to be able to share their message according to law, to the right people in a way that keeps them in the rest of us safe. that means that we have to be able to report outside their agency and if necessary to the congress without fear or reprisal. there is still a lot of room for improvement in the whistleblower protection laws although we have
made much progress since i joined the congress. the better protections they have, the more likely whistleblowers will come forward. believe me, we can't do our constitutional duty of oversight without good whistleblowing. the good news is that there are more folks like ernie fitzgerald out there. these whistleblowers know what is really behind the agency talking points. they can tell you when congress is being lied to her getting part of the story only. they know where to find waste, fraud and abuse and needs brave men and women are risking their reputations in their careers every day to do with the only crime ernie fitzgerald said that whistleblowers to his commit troop. that is what whistleblowers are doing. just committing true for ruining
themselves may be professionally for doing it. in the process, holding congress are holding the government coe. by entrusting the truth tellers from proposed wrongdoing and corruption, we can bring transparency and accountability to our institutions. by working with them to conduct rigorous oversight we can restore the public trust in our government. the whistleblowers are keeping faith to the taxpayers. then, the question must be asked, or we keep enough faith? thank you. [applause] >> so, the sen has te for a few questions. i would ask you to raise your hand, wait for a microphone and briefly announce who you are. >> thank you, senator.
i am from a common cause. i was wondering if you could speak to the current 13 investigations last count into scott pruitt's tenure at the epa, including -- you're aware. >> i assume that there's other committees. i'm not doing some oversight there except appeals with ethanol. that is more just a policy issue than it is oversight. here is what i said personally. other people have taken some strong positions, but i said to the news media the day they ask me about this, almost daily ask me about it but i'm going to wait and hope these people get done. if they come up very negatively and even in one serious case i guess as you said about the team. i wouldn't say they have to find
something wrong before i say you should go. right now, my problem with him is not carrying out a promise that the president made on alternative energy. >> seth weisberg, citizen from houston texas. i appreciate what you are saying about oversight and you said [inaudible] over your illustrious career. and now i know you're working very hard to even get the information they are withholding and playing the press came. how would the chevron deference they could difference? how can you make the tide of power slipping away from congress? >> i'm glad to know that the recent couple court decisions,
even the supreme court has indicated go take another look at chevron. i am co-author of a bill with senator hatch to do away with shareholders. in other words, not give as much deference to administrative expert pieces the course will give. i don't know whether it's ever indicated in the case of the various pieces of regulatory legislation that the courts now deferred to. i think i is kind of a case that the supreme court legislature. that is why unless they overrule themselves, we have checks and balances in the law. you probably know that for progressives in this town and in the congress is going to be difficult to get bipartisan support to do that.
>> hi, senator. kat senator. countless terror with u.s. tax watch. what are your plans for a irs oversight the tax reform bill has passed and you have a possibly new commissioner coming in. >> i think the answer to your question would have nothing to do with the tax bill except as the tax bill changes policy under the following our policy. but i think you get more problems with oversight with the way irs acts towards certain taxpayers, particularly small business versus major corporations. going back to 1988 when i served on the study committee that rewrote some of these laws and i think did some good for a certain period of time. we are back at the point where
the irs toward small business is getting worse. so they can be done through ch a need for legislation is introduced and i think maybe legislation that's even passed the house they don't know for sure that passed the house. it's very tough on the agenda of thways and means committee, finance committee that we have other tax bills and send taxpayer bill of rights. by the way, you do this a little bit at a time. so i think we have been taxpayer bill of rights provisions in the tax bill we passed before christmas. >> in terms of overreach by agencies, cover should make more robust usage.
>> absolutely. and we are. prior to this administration they may be attempted two or three other times. and so, it has been successfully think 16 times this year. i think the better thing would be if the acronym -- i can't think of it. here's how it works. i just can't think of the name of the bill. anyway, we need to write legislation so that any major role in the major role at the deli is anything that cost the economy more than $100 million a year. we need to pass this and we would have to pass it going into effect. congress might not have expertise to make decisions than
you do leave a lot to the bureaucracy like they say on scientific or health issues or something like that. then we can look at it when it comes back. when we are chastised by her constituents for passing bad law that brings even worse regulation and we would have the final say. so i am very much in favor. >> thank you, senator. what's your view on the power to pardon himself. >> i think if i were president of the united states as somebody said i had the power to pardon yourself, but here is where i'm coming from in regard to that.
nobody in this country is above the law. it seems to me discretion was answered when nixon was president. you get tired of me saying i'm not a lawyer. >> the opportunity for tax legislation this year in this political climate you think there is a remote possibility of corrections or something like that. >> i hope so. every massive piece of legislation if there is really noncontroversial, i think we have a chance of getting it passed. if it does mix up of some change of policy. i think when you get into the latter, democrats in the senate
will take a view that they were involved in the passage of our bill, so they may not want to help people. i think if things are very obvious they be not meeting their professional responsibilities to consider some change. so i think you're going to find at least technical corrections on the ways and means committee, maybe even before the election in dealing with extenders of the ways and means. i don't offer comes up in the senate are not. publicly not before the election. [inaudible] >> hi, tara kelly come a summer intern the sec from pennsylvania my question is how much faith you have in president trump's promise to relocate some of that back to congress and to drain the swamp, so to speak.
>> let me ask you this. i think the president is doing what he could do on its own under law. if i'm to drain the swamp or maybe just one example. >> you can see the last few minutes of this event with senator grassley on our website, c-span.org. a live look at the u.s. supreme court on this wednesday morning, which today is closing out its current term announcing decisions this morning at 10:00 eastern. there were two decisions to be released. janus versus ask me, a case filed by mark janus in illinois child support specialist. he does not belong to the union that route presented but is still required to pay a fee to cover the cost of collective bargaining of which he benefits. the supreme court approve such an arrangement over 40 years ago the janus is asking the justices to overrule that decision. the other case involves a water dispute between georgia and
florid takeou live now to the u. supreme court, which continues work today on the farm bill. we are expecting votes on amendments to the legislation. live coverage of the senate here on c-span2. the president pro tempore: the senate will come to order. the chaplain, dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. eternal god, this day our hearts rise up to meet you, and our lips extol your wonderful works in the earth. great is your faithfulness.